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As It Is in Heaven

A man content to let life pass him by, schoolteacher Stephen Griffin is about to experience a miracle. For a string quartet from Venice has arrived in County Clare and, with it, worldly and beautiful violinist Gabriella Castoldi, who inspires love in the awkward Stephen. Although the town's blind musician senses its coming, the greengrocer welcomes its sheer joy, and Stephen's ailing father fears its power, none could have foreseen how the magical force of passion would change not only Stephen's life but, in the most profound and startling ways, the lives of everyone around them. A tale of dreams, life, and love, AS IT IS IN HEAVEN affirms the acclaimed author of Four Letters of Love as one of today's master storytellers.
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Williams, a gifted Irish writer, was known only for nonfiction until his first novel Four Letters of Love reaped a chorus of praise (including a PW Best Books accolade) a couple of years ago. Now he has tried to repeat the trick, but unfortunately the freshness that leaped from the pages has become mere practiced calculation. His hero, Stephen Griffin, is a dim young man declining into premature senility as a history teacher, whose life is transformed by the rather improbable arrival of a beautiful but deeply unhappy young Italian violinist, Gabriella Castoldi, to play a concert at a little West Ireland hotel. Griffin is struck dumb with passion; since symptoms of magic realism abound, smells of white lilies and a general glowing aura convince those around him he is in love. Gabriella, emerging from an unhappy affair, decides to stay on in Ireland; Griffin meets her again and they have a fling; she goes back to Venice and finds she is pregnant; he follows but cannot find her; she comes back; finally, they carry out the wishes of an old blind seafarer (shades of Under Milk Wood's Captain Cat) and build a beautiful little music school by the sea. Williams is a felicitous phrasemaker, and he conjures up some lovely poetic images of weather and seascapes. Passages about the ineffable beauty of music and the emotional impact it can have are touching. But the sense of delighted surprise that was so constant in Letters is notably absent; the story is far more rigidly structured, and the characters, from Stephen's poor dad dying of cancer and trying to give his money away, to a chirpy lady who keeps a greengrocer shop and knows what fruits to sell for all ills of the heart, are tired clich‚s. There are pleasures here for those who enjoy the equivalent of a beautifully photographed, sad movie, but Williams had seemed capable of much more. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates; author tour. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Having lost his mother and sister in a car crash at an early age, Stephen Griffith is so deeply reserved that he practically disappears into the woodwork. But then one day he spots violinist Gabriella Castoldi in performance and is transformed by an overwhelming love. Gabriella, who came to Ireland with a boyfriend and promptly fell out of love and refused to leave, isn't quite as bowled over by Stephen but is glad enough to launch a liaison. On this slender strip of a story, Williams constructs a whole, top-heavy novel. After Four Letters of Love (LJ 7/97), Williams's thoughtful and enchanting debut, this second work comes as a shock: it's a sticky, sentimental mess, terrifically overblown and portentously yet conventionally written. Buy only where soppy love stories flourish.ÄBarbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.


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